12 ex-U.S. intelligence chiefs defend Brennan, rebuke Trump for using security clearances as a 'political tool'
Late Thursday, a dozen former U.S. intelligence chiefs dating back to the Reagan administration joined retired Adm. William McRaven in openly criticizing President Trump's decision to revoke former CIA Director John Brennan's security clearance for what appear to be political reasons. The six former CIA directors, five deputy CIA directors, and one director of national intelligence said in their open letter they felt compelled to respond after Trump's "ill-considered and unprecedented remarks and actions" regarding Brennan's security clearance.
The intelligence officials defended Brennan as "an enormously talented, capable, and patriotic individual" and said "insinuations and allegations of wrongdoing on the part of Brennan while in office are baseless." They noted pointedly that not all of them have chosen to "speak out sharply" on Trump's perceived "threats to our national security," as Brennan has. But, they added:
Regardless, we all agree that the president's action regarding John Brennan and the threats of similar action against other former officials has nothing to do with who should and should not hold security clearances — and everything to do with an attempt to stifle free speech. You don't have to agree with what John Brennan says (and, again, not all of us do) to agree with his right to say it, subject to his obligation to protect classified information. We have never before seen the approval or removal of security clearances used as a political tool, as was done in this case. ... Decisions on security clearances should be based on national security concerns and not political views. [Letter from intelligence chiefs]
Trump is clearly sending a signal to other government officials, they wrote, and "that signal is inappropriate and deeply regrettable." Officials typically retain their security clearance after they leave the government "in order to ensure institutional continuity and in the event their expertise proves useful to their successors," CBS News explains, and some also use it to obtain jobs in the private sector. Peter Weber
In clinical trials for the majority of FDA-approved cancer drugs, fewer than 5 percent of the patients were black, Stat News and ProPublica reported Wednesday.
Out of the 31 cancer drugs approved since 2015, 24 of them have had single-digit proportions of black patients during trials, the analysis found. In one trial for a multiple myeloma treatment, just 1.8 percent of participants were black, even though black Americans are twice as likely as white Americans to be diagnosed with the blood cancer and there may be "meaningful differences" in how the condition affects the two races.
The Food and Drug Administration has not established any rules that would require drug makers to test treatments on minority patients, and many manufacturers don't diversify their trials voluntarily, reports Stat News.
Drug companies often say it is challenging to enroll minorities, reports ProPublica. The clinical trials with highest black participation, up to 12 percent, were from Johnson & Johnson, a company that uses an internal group to improve trial diversity. Advocates have called on the FDA to implement similar standards across the industry, but the agency has demurred.
Minorities are also often not properly incentivized or are not able to participate: Financial barriers, logistical challenges and distrust of the medical community are all factors that sometimes discourage minorities from joining trials, even though they could be "life-extending opportunities," said Dr. Kashif Ali, research head at Maryland Oncology Hematology. Read more at Stat News. Summer Meza
President Trump has a true appreciation for the power of nature. Especially when it washes a boat onto someone's yard.
Trump visited North Carolina on Wednesday to survey damage in the few areas where Hurricane Florence's floodwaters have subsided. One homeowner was particularly concerned that his insurance company wouldn't pay for the flooding damage, but Trump was more excited that the man "got a nice boat out of the deal," The New York Times' Mark Landler reports.
After meeting a man who'd named his dog after the president, Trump noticed a yacht had trucked through another man's deck. "I think it's incredible what we're seeing," Trump said after confirming the boat was not the homeowner's. "The boat just came here." And while Trump promised to "find out the name of the insurance company" that snubbed the man, he also suggested the free boat could make up for it. "What's the law?" the president asked. "Maybe it just becomes theirs."
Trump to a homeowner in New Bern, NC, who had a yacht wash up in his backyard: “At least you got a nice boat out of the deal.” pic.twitter.com/twtT3it8ul
— Mark Landler (@MarkLandler) September 19, 2018
Besides being awestruck by a mystery boat, Trump also made sure to confirm North Carolina's Lake Norman was doing okay, Landler reports. Trump "love(s) that area," he told a state official, but he "can't tell you why." Survey says it's because there's a Trump National Golf Club on the shore. Kathryn Krawczyk
Two new polls suggest that support for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is plummeting, and it probably hasn't hit rock bottom yet.
On Wednesday, Reuters published the results of a poll conducted from Sept. 11 to Sept. 17, largely before sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh came to dominate the news. The New Yorker only reported on Sept. 14, three days into the survey, that an anonymous woman was accusing Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct. The woman came forward publicly on Sept. 16, the day before the poll wrapped up, to allege Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her while they were both in high school. Kavanaugh has denied the allegations.
Yet even still, 36 percent of those surveyed by Reuters said they do not want Kavanaugh to be confirmed, with just 31 percent supporting his confirmation. These numbers are even lower than they have been in most polls over the past few weeks, with Reuters reporting that the percent who disapprove has climbed six points since last month. Additionally, only 64 percent of Republicans said they support Kavanaugh's confirmation. In a poll released by CNN last week, 74 percent of Republicans wanted the judge to be confirmed.
Meanwhile, YouGov also released a new poll on Wednesday with a similar result: Thirty-two percent of respondents said they approve of Kavanaugh's confirmation. But in that same poll, only 26 percent of those surveyed said the Kavanaugh sexual assault allegations are credible, while a plurality said they haven't heard enough to say for sure.
The YouGov poll was conducted from Sep. 17 - 18 and reached 1,000 Americans online. The margin of error is ± 3.9 percentage points. Reuters' poll was similarly conducted online, but it reached about 2,000 adults and the credibility interval is ± 2 percentage points.
Cody Wilson, owner of the controversial 3D-printed gun company Defense Distributed, has been charged with sexually assaulting a minor.
Wilson, 30, allegedly met the girl, who is under 17, on the website SugarDaddyMeet.com, The New York Times reports. They each sent at least one explicit photo to each other via text, and met in person in Austin, Texas, on Aug. 15. Wilson then drove the girl to a hotel where the assault occurred, and paid her $500, an affidavit details.
Investigators were able to match Wilson's driver's license to profiles used on the website. Hotel records and security footage also back up the story, per affidavit details reported by the Austin American-Statesman.
Wilson posted blueprints online for his 3D-printed plastic gun in 2013, and sued when the U.S. State Department ordered him to take the plans down. The case was settled earlier this year, but 19 states quickly sued Wilson again. A restraining order has since blocked Wilson from posting the plans online. Wilson has taken to mailing customers the blueprints on flash drives.
Wilson could face up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine under the felony sexual assault charge, per the American-Statesman. He and his lawyer have not returned the Times' request for comment. Kathryn Krawczyk
Britain was 95 percent sure Russia poisoned an ex-spy. 'Maybe we should get to 98 percent,' Trump said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has always known how to get on President Trump's good side.
From the moment Trump took office, and even before then, Putin has used his intelligence training to stroke Trump's ego, the forthcoming book The Apprentice: Trump, Russia and the Subversion of American Democracy by The Washington Post's Greg Miller reveals. Putin urged Trump to create Russia-friendly policies, had him scrambling to plan a summit between the two leaders, and reportedly even convinced him the "deep state" was "fighting against our friendship," Miller writes.
The president's "friendship" with Putin pushed him away from American intelligence officials and other world leaders, an excerpt from The Apprentice published in the Post says. The book also alleges that Trump's problems with the CIA stemmed mostly from the agency's evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Trump's Russian deference was on fully display after the ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal was poisoned in England. British Prime Minister Theresa May told Trump the U.K. was "95 percent sure" the Kremlin was behind the nerve agent attack. "Maybe we should get to 98 percent," Trump replied, per The Apprentice. He later came close to backing out of a plan to throw 60 suspected Russian spies out of the U.S. in partnership with European leaders. Chief of Staff John Kelly persuaded Trump to follow through on the commitment, but the decision still drew "a lot of curse words" from the president, an official later said.
Hurricane Florence continued to dump rain on North Carolina for days after it made landfall last week, leading to devastating flooding across much of the state. Wilmington, a coastal city that was transformed into an island due to surrounding floodwaters, has become increasingly isolated as flooding fills the I-40 highway. Aerial footage captured by USA Today shows the highway looking more like a river, completely unrecognizable beneath record-breaking floodwaters.
At least 37 people have died as a result of the hurricane, reports The Associated Press. Emergency responders are working to enter the hard-hit areas to offer relief, but it's challenging when roads are completely blocked off. Watch the video below to see just how severe the flooding remains, via USA Today. Summer Meza
Even if in the upcoming midterms, Democrats manage to hold on to the 10 seats that are at risk in states President Trump won in 2016, they will still need to win two additional seats in order to take back the Senate. The new polls suggest Texas and Arizona are the states where Democrats have the best chances. Florida and Nevada's competitions are leaning toward Republican wins, but are notably tight.
In Texas, Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D) leads Sen. Ted Cruz (R) by two percent in a poll of Texas voters. It's a tiny margin, but more than was originally expected from a long-shot Democrat in the deep-red state. Still, a Quinnipiac poll released Tuesday showed Cruz ahead by nine points.
The race to replace retiring Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) is looking positive for Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D), the Arizona poll shows. She's ahead of the President Trump-backed Rep. Martha McSally (R) by three points. Senate races in Florida and Nevada lean toward Republicans, with Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) just one point above incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D), and incumbent Nevada Sen. Dean Heller (R) leading Rep. Jacky Rosen (D) by three.
All of these races are within the 4-point credibility intervals Reuters recorded, meaning the senatorial wannabes are essentially tied. Separate polls were conducted online for each state from Sept. 5-17, and each polled between 992 and 1,039 people. Kathryn Krawczyk